UN to enlist refugees who want to return

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Jan 5, 2019-

After Nepal rejected to locally integrate the Bhutanese refugees, the UN refugee agency is preparing to collect data of those refugees who want to be repatriated back to their country.   

The Kathmandu-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is set to start the data collection in two refugee camps in eastern Nepal from the second week of January, officials said.

After collecting the data, the UNHCR will send it to Geneva, the headquarters of the UN refugee agency, to put pressure on both Nepali and Bhutanese governments to start a formal dialogue for refugee repatriation. Another reason is to conduct advocacy and lobby for voluntary repartition of the refugee.    

Seventeen rounds of ministerial-level talks between Nepal and Bhutan in the past have failed to resolve the refugee crisis, with Bhutan outrightly refusing to take back the Nepali speaking Bhutanese who had been forced out of the country in early 1990s. 

While more than 110,000 Bhutanese refugees have migrated to the US and other countries under the UN’s third country resettlement programme, the future of around 6,600 refugees, who still remain in Nepal, remains uncertain, with Nepal refusing to integrate them locally and Bhutan not willing to repatriate them. 

Nepal is also faces the imminent challenge of feeding the refugees as World Food Programs has cut the food aid for the Bhutanese refugees from December, 2018.

The government officials said after the third-country settlement programme began in 2008, the UN refugee agency had assured the Nepal government to support and pursue Nepal’s bid and interest for repartition of the refugees and put pressure on Bhutanese government. The latest initiative of the UNHCR is being seen as part of that assurance.  

More than 3,000 refugees living in two refugee camps have expressed their interest to return to Bhutan during a recent general survey. There are three separate groups inside two refugee camps in Jhapa and Morang, actively pursuing for repartition.   

Published: 05-01-2019 08:44

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